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Weathering Future Storms: HUD Announces Rebuild By Design's Winning Proposals

BIG, SCAPE, and OMA among six teams to win competition to implement plans to safeguard New York and New Jersey from rising sea levels and future storms.

By Nicole Anderson
June 04, 2014
Image courtesy Rebuild by Design
The BIG Team's proposal, "The BIG U" for East River Park in Manhattan.

New wetlands, breakwaters, and elevated parks are just few of the design solutions planned to help protect New York and New Jersey’s vulnerable coastlines from future flooding, thanks to nearly a billion dollars from the federal government. On Monday, U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the six winning teams to receive funding to carry out projects to turn at-risk coastal areas, including Hunt’s Point in Queens and New Jersey’s New Meadowlands, into resilient communities.

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It has been a year since the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, launched the ambitious, and somewhat amorphous, Rebuild by Design competition, calling on interdisciplinary teams—made up of architects, engineers, planners, and academic institutions—to come up with ideas to shield flood-prone areas from the continued threats of Sandy-scale storm surges caused by climate change. And now these projects-- at once sweeping and detailed in scope-- will receive funding to begin implementation.

“Through this collaborative design process, the teams delivered innovative solutions that bridge the gap between social and physical vulnerabilities,” said Henk Ovink, Principal of Rebuild by Design, in a statement.

The selected projects vary in approach and provide a myriad of strategies to safeguard different communities throughout the region. The funding comes from $2.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) and will be parceled out among the six teams. On the south shore of Staten Island, SCAPE/Landscape Architecture will use $60 million to focus on the first phase of its “Living Breakwaters” plan in the Sandy-ravaged Tottenville by constructing a breakwater system in addition to reefs which will become natural habitats for marine life.

Another proposal, aptly named “The BIG U” from Danish firm, BIG, received $335 million, the largest amount of funding, to design a berm at the East River Park, a raised barrier composed of verdant routes and passive recreation spots to protect the east side from strong storm surges. New pedestrian bridges will provide pathways for New Yorkers to reach the now inaccessible park. This is one component of BIG’s larger plan to wrap a protective system around ten miles of Manhattan’s waterfront, extending from West 57th Street to the Battery and up to East 42nd Street.

The timeframe for the implementation of these six plans remains uncertain. The first step, says a member of the Rebuild for Design team, is for HUD to draft the legal framework while the winning teams write their action plans. Once approved by HUD, the teams have the green light to move forward with the implementation of their proposals.  




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